Posted by: Ryan Allen on June 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm
Jeff Howitt — founder of Loco Gnosis Records, and lead singer of Detroit rock weirdos Duende! — is crazy. Or maybe crazy isn’t the right word. Perhaps “passionate” is a better fit. Either way, the sporadic, stream-of-consciousness style answers he gave to our questions about him, his label, and his involvement in the Blue Moon In June showcase — taking place Saturday, June 28 at the CAID, and featuring 13 of Detroit’s best bands — would suggest that the man has nothing but pure love running through his veins. Below are excerpts from said conversation with Howitt, as well as his amazing knack for describing each band performing at Blue Moon In June. If you can decipher the code, you’ll be excited about every one of ‘em. — Ryan Allen
Is Loco Gnosis a record label? A promotions company? A group of crazy fringe musicians getting together to help one another out? What’s the scoop?
“What are we doing?” That is the million dollar (Okay, hundred dollar) question just for ourselves. We actually are more into barter. We exchange. We are a workshop. Everyone involved has brought something to the round table, from graphic design to video editing to just having a camera or being able to play in more than one band even in one night or just knowing a guy. The culture of song is the reflections of the people, and we support anybody who is in service to the muse. A traditional label of old? No. The intent is to have [the music] able to be heard possibly by generations of people digging for music beyond fad or career.
How long have you been at this in general? How did you go from being a musician in a band to wanting to do something more…to wanting to create more of a community?
When I was 19, I self published a crappy book of poems, after taking an oath of sorts from Robert Frost. He told his family to let him be for 20 years so he could dedicate himself to the study of poetry. In that 20th year he read at the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy. My goals are definitely not that lofty, but the thought of selfless dedication to self education with no outside certification or needing permission inspired me very much. I have always been drawn more towards the gears and pulleys of how things work. We did a book called “Satori” in 1993, which was stories, poems, and drawings; it was just handed out among friends. When I left Michigan for Phoenix in 1999, we pitched a “Wang Dang Doodle” — which was thematically based off the blues song where you invite “Pistol Toting Pete” and “Fast Talking Fannie”…all the badasses and have a party. In Phoenix, the bar scene was pretty lame. But on first Fridays, art galleries would book all these crazy bands, break dancers, fire performers and have it out. I worked with a collective there called Cat in Cog and we did a lot of shows with props and fake blood. Great fun.
What is the inspiration for putting on Blue Moon in June?
Ray [Thompson] from Oscillating [Fan Club] had the name, the venue ,and the thought of it to honor Detroit. When we started getting it together, we came across a lot of talk of it having been 40 years since the riots, and it took shape as an expression of solidarity between the city and the arts. A John Sinclair or Pun Plamondon shouldn’t be forgotten. They weren’t criminals; they were responding in a time where human rights were up for debate. Their work has stood and should be studied. When Sinclair got arrested, John Lennon came and protested. We didn’t have Flower Power; we had White Panthers. Maybe Blue Moon In June can become such a institution for people in years to come.
In short, one sentence descriptions, give us your feelings about this year’s Blue Moon in June lineup, and the reason why people should be excited about these bands, if they’ve never heard them before:
Pinkeye: “A magic 8 ball that knows what is best for you.”
Deastro: “Carl Jung said UFO’s are reflections of future…”
Woodman: “Papa Staples REVISITED.”
Oscillating Fan Club: “If Edward Scissorhands had a band…”
Duende!: “They kicked Anton Newcomb’s ass in Philadelphia.”
Silverghost: “Glorious transcendence of the garage boom!”
Wildcatting: “Mystical unveiling of the peers of the peerless band.”
Dutch Pink: “Arcane orations and rare heirloomed arrangements.”
Stare Into The Sun: “The controls have already been set for the heart.”
Red China: “Diplomats of the broken republic or kids left alone after the bomb went off.”
Mick Bassett and the Marthas: “Get ready for the new Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Drew Bardo: “Virtuous and learned agent of chaos.”
Satori Circus: “Moon shadow of the revolution.”
Overall, what’s your feeling on the Detroit music scene? Where do you fit in? What bands, besides the ones you put out, do you find yourself gravitating towards? What gets you excited, man?
I see it as much more diverse than it ever has been. This is Detroit, so certain things will stay in place — like soul and energy. The sheer number of bands just blows my mind, really. Everybody is in a band. What Duende! is playing isn’t hot right now with all the keyboard and drum machine bands which I love but seeing like the Readies lets me know we are rooted in something that if it isn’t brewing it is lasting or cyclical. What gets me excited, though, is if you are into what you are doing. Soul and energy captivates and convinces me.